something needs to be done about barcelona

the first leg of the el clásico champions league semifinal should have been one of the most epic football matches of all time.

barcelona surround the referee to try and sway his decision
this really needs to stop.

in terms of sheer talent on the pitch at one time, the champions league has probably never seen so much: the two best players, (arguably) the two best teams, and the two of the best three managers in the world (can’t ignore fergie). monetarily, only 9 of the 22 players that started the match are not among the 100 highest paid footballers in the world. the match up between madrid and barcelona is one the most heated rivalries in all of sports, between two of the most storied clubs in all of football. a clash of the titans if you will.

unfortunately, we didn’t get what we all had hoped.

everyone will be saying that the biggest problem in the game was with the way real played. “anti-football” they call it. but it wasn’t. if anyone expected to see a free-flowing spectacle of a match with loads of attacking, well, they’re just stupid.

we were already given two sneak peaks as to how these champions league fixtures would play out. the first example came in the relatively calm league encounter, where neither manager wanted to expose their plans for the matches to come. the second and more revealing sign of things to come came in the copa del rey final. with a trophy on the line, we got to see mourinho’s so-called “anti-football” finally neutralize barcelona’s “total football.”

it may just be me, but how could anyone expect a mourinho-lead team to not play a suffocating/stifling defensive strategy against barcelona? he did the exact same thing when facing the the catalonians while at the hemls of chelsea and internazionale.

at the midway point of last night’s match, the commentators during the halftime shows universally complained about how los merengues weren’t “playing the game” and were “raping and murdering football” (i might have made that last one up, but the point was still being made). really?

look, nobody is going to beat barcelona playing their game. you can’t just go out and buy players and get them to play confidence crushing tiki-taka the way barça do, mainly because it takes years of playing together to develop that cohesion and positional awareness within a side. arsenal play the most similar style, yet they couldn’t even hold a candle to the blaugrana in the first knockout round.

mourinho, however, is the only one who has been able to crack the catalonian code. sure it’s ugly, boring, defensive, and anti-footballish at times. but it can work against barcelona, and that’s why madrid hired him. i don’t think you’ll hear any inter fans or board members angry with mourinho for playing ugly soccer; they’re all too busy trying to drink from their champions league trophy.

(and if i’m being completely honest here, barcelona’s tiki-taka system can produce some pretty big snoozers too. they have so much possession of the ball, particularly after they score, that the game often becomes pointless to watch. it’s the same thing as watching a blowout in basketball: after a while, it’s just not that fun to the neutral viewer.)

so to all of the pundits and fans out there decrying mourinho’s tactics, take a hike. what would you rather barça’s opponents do:  roll over and concede the games before their played? get out of here. that would kill the game.

all that said, the media do seem to be ignoring a rather large part of the barça persona, and it is, in my opinion, a hugely troublesome issue.

sergio busquets peeks through his hands, looking to see if he earned inter a card.
hey. busquets. we see what you're up to.

barcelona’s incredible dominance of, brilliance in, and flag bearing for the beautiful game has rightly earned them a massive, worldwide following. the effect of their rise to the appex of the sport will be felt for years to come, as a million future little messis, xavis and piques are being heavily influenced by their style of play and club ethos. unfortunately though, they’re not all learning good habits.

what the media is largely ignoring, and i’m taking such an issue with, is that barça are a completely ethically horrible team. they dive, simulate, bitch, moan and harass more than any other side in the world. instead, they pay loads of attention to how mourinho thinks there’s a referee conspiracy, real madrid play anti-football, or collectively kissing barcelona’s blue and red striped ass.

fifa have made it pretty clear lately that they intend to eliminate diving from the game. yet, the crown jewel in the club game’s stable regularly employs some of the most ridiculous divers out there (ronaldo/nani/ibrahimovic aside). pedro, sergio busquets, dani alves were all at the top of their simulation game during yesterday’s el clásico. and the trio, along with regular offenders like david villa and mascherano, have been using these dirty little tricks for quite some time. especially busquets.

on top of that, anytime there is a decision that could go against one of their opponents, their entire team crowds around the referee. you’ll see them there, pleading with and pressuring the official to give their foes the yellow/red card they so “rightfully” deserve. isn’t this something the governing bodies were trying to rid the game of, as well?

so not only are barcelona’s players actively trying to earn the opposition cards by simulating non-existent fouls, but they follow that up by pressuring the referee to give a card for a foul that never happened.

sergio busquets simulating a foul
not only is this unacceptable, but barcelona don't even need to do it.

why are they doing this?!?!  this is a team that doesn’t need to cheat to win. they’re already good enough to beat everyone fair and square.

and while their style of play does seem to “invite” the other team to foul (either through frustration of never having possession, getting rough with their own tackles, or by releasing the ball just as the other player is about to tackle), it’s not an excuse to fake a foul that they thought would happen.

not that i can prove otherwise, but if this is tactical directive from guardiola, i’ve lost a lot of respect for him. when mourinho says things like the following, it makes you a little more suspect:

let’s hope he gets the chance to win a clean champions league, without scandals.

what fifa, uefa, and the media don’t see is that, by ignoring this issue, they are only undermining their efforts to clean up the game. if a million child/teenage barcelona  fans that were watching the game learned anything from yesterday’s match, it’s that they can earn the other team a card if they only make the effort. try to fake a foul. try to pressure the referee. try to cheat. the effects of these lessons will continue to ripple through the world of soccer just as long as all of the positive things that the blaugrana bring to the game.

you’ll never be able to rid your sport of it’s evils if you allow it’s greatest spokesman to be it’s biggest cheat.

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7 Comments

  1. I totally agree with you. I have to say though. You will NEVER be able to convince Barcelona fans that their team is just a bunch of cheaters. Because the fans like winning too. And if cheating helps them do that then what can anyone do about it? I’m guilty of it myself, I’m a man utd fan and I know that Nani is the same as most of the barcelona players. I do agree though that Barcelona overdo it. They need to be stopped. What can we do?

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    1. alex, you’re absolutely right about their fans. i hate to generalize, but a good number of your “average” barça fans stateside are so busy screaming “OMFG MESSI IS THE BEST PLAYER EVAAAAAR!!!!” that they are blinded from the darker side of the team’s personality. should you make the mistake of bringing up something negative about the club, they publicly shame you by pointing at you and yelling things like “YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SOCCER. BARKA PLAY THE BEAUTIFUL GAME!!!” it’s frustrating, but, like you said, what can you do? blog about it i suppose.

      either way, thanks for reading and contributing alex!

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  2. I just watched what happened during the chelsea game in 2009. Now that was worse than what happened with real madrid. I do not like chelsea but in that game i said ‘poor chelsea’. And I’m sure btw that there are plenty of spanish sites blogging about it. Don’t think anyone’s listening though. Send an email to UEFA maybe?

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    1. that chelsea game was awful, as was last year’s semifinal against inter milan (which is where the picture of busquets peeking through his hands came from). for sure, there are countless blogs discussing barcelona’s indiscretions, and little to none of them will receive any attention from UEFA. my guess is your email will likely fall on deaf ears; maybe you’d have better luck contacting major news outlets. i was just getting at the point that there isn’t much we can do.

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  3. By the way, do you think there may be any truth to the rumor that Barca players are on drugs? I think it could be a possibility.

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    1. honestly, i think the doping allegations are rubbish. yes, the spanish doctor who is claimed to be working with barça has ties to blood doping in cycling and tennis. however, in 2008 french paper le monde linked both barcelona and real madrid to the the doctor, and both clubs won defamation suits against the publisher for making false claims. i’ll need to hear more — and more credible — sources before i go around condemning barcelona for more serious things.

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